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Activist Gilbert Goh fined for protesting outside ICA without permit, refusing to sign police statement

Activist Gilbert Goh fined for protesting outside ICA without permit, refusing to sign police statement

Gilbert Goh arriving at the State Courts on Dec 15, 2021. (Photo: TODAY/Ili Nadhirah Mansor)

SINGAPORE: Activist Gilbert Goh Keow Wah was on Friday (Aug 19) fined S$3,200 for protesting outside the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) building without a permit and refusing to sign a police statement.

He was convicted of the offences on Jul 26 this year after claiming trial for the two charges he faced.

He was fined S$2,000 for protesting without a permit and S$1,200 for refusing to sign the police statement. He will pay the S$2,000 fine but go to jail for three days in default of the S$1,200 fine, his lawyer Lim Tean said in court. 

On May 1, 2021, Goh held up a placard outside the ICA building that read: "Please ban all flights from India we are not racist! Just being cautious".

This took place soon after the Government stopped entry for all long-term pass holders and short-term visitors from India in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases htere.

Goh took part in a "public assembly to publicise a cause, namely, to persuade the Government to ban all flights from India", according to court documents. Goh was also accompanied by someone who took photographs of him holding up the placard.

On Friday, the prosecution sought a fine between S$3,700 and S$4,200, saying that there were numerous aggravating factors.

Such factors included his intentional use of “provocative and sensationalist phrases” and his "patent attempts" to drive a wedge between Singaporeans and "those of foreign origin", said Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Chong.

His attempts were "clearly aimed at unravelling the social fabric and community relations”, he said.

Mr Chong added that that offences involving such threats must be dealt with firmly since Singapore’s social fabric and community relations are the “bedrock upon which peace and progress in Singapore are founded”.

Mr Chong said that Goh’s conduct of his defence underscores his “complete lack of remorse”.

Goh showed that he knew his actions constituted an offence. He admitted that he knew a police permit was required but he did not apply for one, said the prosecution.

“Despite this, he belligerently reiterated that he did not regret his actions and that he would rather go to jail,” Mr Chong said.

Mr Chong also said that Goh amplified the reach of his protest through his Facebook posts, which were publicly accessible.

He noted that the Facebook posts gained substantial traction, resulting in a combined total of 8,569 likes, 3,573 shares, and 1,473 comments across his six posts, which in turn “amplified” the harm caused. 


Defence lawyer Mr Lim sought a fine of S$1,500 for his client. He argued that the prosecution “quite unfairly” tried to characterise his client as someone out to perpetuate divisiveness.

“Nothing can be further from the truth,” he said.

He pointed to the charitable work Goh has done for the underprivileged and said he has received “huge praise” locally and internationally.

“His whole life, whole work is about inclusiveness,” Mr Lim said. “He was trying to raise awareness, he was trying to advise the Government.”

Mr Lim also told the court that Goh does not have previous convictions. He said that Goh did not sign the police statement as he had concerns that the statement might not have accurately recorded what he said.

In sentencing, District Judge Luke Tan said that Goh's offence of protesting without a permit was not a spontaneous one and involved planning.  

Any action that may create tension and resentment among different groups in society must be “frowned upon and discouraged”, he said.

Under the Public Order Act, those who take part in a public assembly without a permit can be fined up to S$3,000. The punishment for refusing to sign a police statement is jail for up to three months, a fine of up to S$2,500 or both.

Source: CNA/ja(mi)


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